A slamming time is had at Norfolk Basketball Festival
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
After a last minute venue change due to safety concerns caused by a typical English summer, the Norfolk Basketball Festival – in partnership with the Solar Shed and the Norfolk Awards – got started as scheduled at the UEA Sportspark in Norwich, writes Diccon Lloyd-Smeath.
More than 30 teams turned up on Sunday for the event, originally scheduled to be held outside the city's Forum, with over 100 ballers keen to show why 3v3 streetball is one of the most popular and crowd friendly sporting formats in the world.
With music, shooting contests and one of the world's finest 'slam dunk' champions jetting in from Latvia to compete in 'The Solar Shed Dunk Contest', the excitement was thick in the air from the moment the first set of youngsters walked through the door to enter the under-18s mixed tournament. Aimed at making the sport accessible to everyone, it allowed female players and male teenagers to play together.
Although geared towards increased participation, this category was extremely competitive with every group coming down to points difference to decide who went through to the semi-finals. Attleborough, Patreska, last year's runners-up Fury Bro's and reigning champions Panthers made up the final four. In a reversal from last year's final, a step back three-pointer in the last second saw the Fury Bro's knock out the Panthers to meet Attleborough in the final.
Before the showcase, Mindaugus Spukas claimed the 'Norfolk Awards three-point contest' with an impressive 17 successful three-pointers in two minutes – a shooting display that would equal an incredible 51 points in a regular match.
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When the two finalists locked horns, unbeaten all day Attleborough proved too strong for the Fury Bro's.
The men's competition upped the anti again, with several teams boasting National League players from King's Lynn's CWA Fury, UEA Panthers and the North Norfolk Vipers. With two teams also including professional players from Europe, the level of competition was reflected by the volume among the crowd as the atmosphere amped up again.
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In the highlight game of the group a buzzer-beater saw 'Do you ever Pass?' beat the Vipers in double overtime. This was a result that proved vital in the closest group of the day. Three teams finished on the same points and baskets scored, meaning that 'Do you ever Pass?' went through thanks to the head-to-head victory over the Vipers.
The quarter-final line-up consisted of last year's winners Mava Miva, Attleborough, The Festival Select Team, The A-Team, Kubus, White Men Can Jump, Do you ever Pass? and The Fury Bro's with Mava Miva, Attleborough, Kubus and Bro's battling through to the last four.
In the pick of the semi-finals Mava Miva were denied a buzzer-beating three-pointer sending Kubus through to the finals to meet The Fury Bro's.
The stage was set but before the main event was the small matter of the 'Solar Shed Dunk Contest'. It saw local competitors Ethan Allen, Dave Wood and Deividas Butkevicius try their luck against the mighty Renars Bulduris of Latvia.
Allen scored highly with an impressive 360 degree effort but when Bulduris, the 'dunk champion' of Latvia, Estonia and Belgium showed his full arsenal of dunks, jaws dropped and the roof came off as the crowd showed their appreciation for an array of efforts that displayed world-class athleticism, and showmanship that would wow the very highest stages of world basketball.
In the final, Kubus battled out a fierce contest with the Fury Bro's and came out victorious with Butkevicius dominant and crowned MVP (Most Valuable Player).
Video filmed and edited by Simon Finlay.